Finding a Match for Noah Syndergaard: Houston Astros

According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the New York Mets are highly motivated to deal Noah Syndergaard and intend to get a deal done at some point between now and July 31.

Rival evaluators say they believe the Mets are fully intent on dealing Noah Syndergaard before the trade deadline. “It’s beyond listening,” said one. “They want to move him.”

Furthermore, the Mets may be looking to extend starting pitcher Zack Wheeler subsequent to a Syndergaard trade, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

Photo: AP Photo | Brynn Anderson

This is a very interesting development, as I’m surprised the Mets’ are being so transparent with what they are looking to do in the coming days. It’s my belief that the Mets are making a big mistake; they should hold onto Noah Syndergaard until the winter at the very least. Right now, his value is diluted (and down) due to his so-so performance this season. His ERA (4.33), FIP (3.64), xFIP (4.03), and SIERA (4.16) are all the highest they’ve been in his career. His strikeout rate (8.95 K/9) and walk rate (2.56 BB/9) are the lowest and highest marks he’s ever recorded during a single season, respectively.

On the bright side, Noah Syndergaard has pitched significantly better over the course of his last seven starts, dating back to June 9, which is part of the reason why I feel the Mets should put off a Syndergaard trade until after the season or wait until next summer…

  • IP: 44.2
  • K/9: 9.07
  • BB/9: 3.22
  • ERA: 3.43
  • FIP: 3.58
  • xFIP: 4.09
  • SIERA: 4.31
  • WHIP: 1.25

Also, Noah Syndergaard is not even the best pitcher on the trade market right now. Matt Boyd, Marcus Stroman, and Trevor Bauer are all having better seasons than him. The teams that are the most active come the final week of July are the ones looking to enhance their odds of a. making the playoffs and b. win the World Series. Therefore, they are typically most interested in trading for the players who are currently performing the best. In other words, their attention is geared more towards improving the present rather than the future (multiple years ahead). That’s why I suspect teams like the Yankees will be focusing solely on Stroman/Bauer because they are going to improve their World Series odds more than someone like Noah Syndergaard, whom you’re not even entirely sure what you are going to get from. 

The above circumstances lower the number of potential trade suitors, thus decreasing the amount of leverage the Mets will have in trade talks involving Thor. On the flip side, however, these teams likely view a Syndergaard trade as an investment that could pay big dividends down the road. What makes Syndergaard arguably the most valuable (not best) pitcher on the trade market right now is the fact that he is controllable through 2021 (he has 2.5 seasons of control), having two remaining years of arbitration eligibility. His salary this season was $6 million. I would expect his salary to double to around $12.6 million for next year.

  • Max Scherzer’s second-time eligible arbitration salary: $6.725 million; his performance that following season: 5.9 fWAR; his third-time eligible arbitration salary: $15.525 million; increase in $ (million) / 1 fWAR: ~1.5
  • Noah Syndergaard’s second-time eligible arbitration salary: $6 million; his current performance + projected (per FanGraphs’ Depth Charts) that following season: 4.4 fWAR; his projected third-time eligible arbitration salary: $12.6 million

For his fourth and final year of arbitration, I anticipate that his salary will land around $18.75 million.

  • Noah Syndergaard’s projected third-time eligible arbitration salary: $12.6 million; his projected performance (per ZiPS) that following season: 4.2 fWAR; his projected third-time eligible arbitration salary (using baseline of $1.5 million / 1 fWAR): $18.9 million

That contract (a combined $31.5 million) would be a bargain for a pitcher of Syndergaard’s caliber, who is projected to produce around 10 WAR for his new team. Once again, I still feel that it is in the Mets’ best interests to hold onto Noah Syndergaard until after the season, which would give him a chance to aim for a higher salary in arbitration (which would simultaneously bolster his trade value). 

With that being said, it has become clear that the Mets are looking to deal Syndergaard within the next week (prior to the July 31 trade deadline). The Houston Astros are the team that best matches up with the Mets in my opinion. Here’s a deal that I could see growing to fruition…

Houston Astros trade RF Kyle TuckerRHP Jose UrquidyRHP Tyler Ivey, and 3B Abraham Toro to the New York Mets in return for RHP Noah Syndergaard and the remaining money on his contract for this season (less than $3 million)

Outfielder Kyle Tucker, who is ranked by FanGraphs as the 16th best prospect in the game, is by far the best prospect in this deal. He’s hitting .265/.350/.563 this season with 25 HR and 70 RBI in 393 plate appearances at Triple-A. That’s good for a 113 wRC+. His walk rate is above 10 percent and his strikeout rate is just below 25 percent. Tucker has also stolen 21 bases.

Video: Baseball Savant

He’s got electric bat speed, which seemingly translated into a lot of forceful contact in 2018. Although Kyle Tucker hit just .141/.236/.203 in his first 72 MLB plate appearances last year, he hit the ball really hard.

His 90.7 mph average exit velocity was tied with Joe Mauer, Danny Valencia, Justin Upton, Jose Martinez, and Rafael Devers for the 52nd highest in all of baseball (minimum 50 batted ball events). That nearly puts him in the 90th percentile. Here’s what Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel have to say about him…

A very divisive amateur prospect, some scouts were put off by Tucker’s unique swing, while it reminded others of Ted Williams’. The Astros have parlayed his natural bat control into more power. Tucker has gotten stronger and more physically mature, his lower half is better incorporated into his swing than it was in high school, and in 2017, he began lifting the ball more as his ground ball rate dropped from 42% to 34%. With that additional lift has come in-game power and Tucker has slugged well over .500 during each of the last two seasons, and hit about 25 homers during each campaign. He had a horrendous 28-game big league debut but his long track record of hitting suggests that should be heavily discounted. 

The Mets could slide Michael Conforto over to center field and Kyle Tucker could play in right, which would rightfully remove the bat out of Juan Lagares’ hands (34 wRC+ in 2019).

Right-handed pitcher Jose Urquidy could pitch out of the Mets’ rotation in Noah Syndergaard’s place right away. He’s ready for the major leagues. His numbers at Triple-A this season demonstrate this assertion…

  • IP: 48.2
  • G: 9
  • GS: 8
  • K/9: 12.76
  • BB/9: 2.03
  • ERA: 4.07
  • FIP: 4.31
  • xFIP: 3.96
  • WHIP: 1.03
  • AVG: .211

Notes from Eric Longenhagen: “91-95, up to 97, plus changeup and command, smart breaking ball usage, a 12:30 spin axis on the heater”

Tyler Ivey, another right-handed pitcher, has also performed exceptionally well in the minors pitching in Double-AA…

  • IP: 27.1
  • G: 7
  • GS: 5
  • K/9: 13.83
  • BB/9: 3.62
  • ERA: 0.66
  • FIP: 2.25
  • xFIP: 2.84
  • WHIP: 0.88
  • AVG: .135

Scouting Report:

He is the Astros’ type, possessing a fastball/curveball combination that plays well in sequence at the top and bottom of the strike zone. The rest of his stuff is just okay but enables Ivey to attack hitters in various ways, either by working his cutter in on the hands of lefties or by dipping his slider beneath the zone. He has a No. 4 or 5 starter’s mix or could end up a dynamic multi-inning reliever.

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel

In case the Mets fail to resign Zack Wheeler, Ivey could be ready to pitch out of the back-end of their rotation as soon as next season.

The fourth and final prospect the Mets would be getting in this deal is third baseman Abraham Toro, who has made dramatic strides this season at Double-A…

AA Stats (FanGraphs)20182019
LD% 20.825.4

This season, he’s hitting more line drives, and he has become a more patient hitter at the plate in terms of walks. Interestingly, his pitches/PA has actually decreased in 2019 at Double-AA (2018: 3.96; 2019: 3.89). Abraham Toro may be implementing a more aggressive approach early on in the count.

Scouting Report:

Perhaps the most divisive prospect in this system, some clubs believe Toro has a chance to play third base everyday while others see a bench bat ceiling on a player who has yet to prove he can handle other positions. He’s a switch-hitter with feel for lifting the baseball from both sides of the plate, makes hard contact, and has plus-plus arm strength when he’s able to step into his throws. But Toro struggles to make throws from athletically challenging platforms, which leads some onlookers to question whether he’s actually a good fit there, and his one-note, pull-heavy approach to contact may be less successful in the big leagues than it has in the lower levels of the minors.

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel

From a pure stuff standpoint, Syndergaard has one of the most lethal repertoires in all of baseball. That’s why he is the perfect fit for the Astros, who have worked their magic with numerous pitchers in recent years (especially with their sliders; Syndergaard’s slider has been crushed this season compared to the previous season [2019 wRC+: 100; 2018 wRC+: 32]), including Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock, Ryan Pressly, etc. He gives them a better chance of winning the World Series this year, and in seasons to come.

For the Mets, they would be landing themselves a promising major-league ready rightfielder in Kyle Tucker, as well as three interesting prospects — Jose Urquidy (who could immediately join the Mets’ rotation), Tyler Ivey, and Abraham Toro (who could theoretically compete with J.D. Davis for the starting job at 3B next spring).

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